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Globally unequal: a response to Clive Crook

James Galbraith
17 September 2003

In reply to Clive Crook, I did not claim that Stanley Fischer and I have no disagreements. Professor Fischer is the former deputy director of the IMF, after all. But what is surprising – or might be to those who do not know the quality of Fischer’s mind – is not that he is broadly favourable to globalisation, but that he is meticulous in offering reservations and qualifications. Which Clive Crook, in his reporting on Fischer’s essay, is not.

Mr Crook’s comment on Africa is wrong. By the measure that globalisers use, share of trade in GDP, the African countries are as globalised as those elsewhere. And their share of trade in GDP rose by ten full percentage points in the 1990s. (It is true that in much of the developing world, this measure of globalisation rose by more than it did in Africa. But its fastest rise was in the so-called transition economies. And there, especially in Russia, economic performance in the late 1990s was a disaster).

The table reproduced here offers evidence for these points:

table

Notes to table:

  • Units are (exports+imports)/gdp H – the standard globalisation measure
  • WENAO = ‘WesternEuropeNorthAmericaOceania’
  • ‘World’ would be an average of all countries
  • ‘World, dollar-GDP-weighted’ would be an average of all countries but weighted by their GDP (reflecting the fact that big countries trade proportionately less).

As for China, I may be in a minority in discounting the role of the Washington Consensus in that country’s progress. But there is a reason for this. I have a certain familiarity with China. From 1993 to 1997 I worked with the United Nations Development Program as the chief technical adviser to the State Planning Commission on a project on macro-economic reform in that country .

I do not claim that I influenced Chinese policy very much. But it was clear that their actions bore little relation to the nostrums of the Bank and Fund, to which not even the World Bank’s resident representative in Beijing subscribed at that time. Agricultural reform, well before the Open Door Policy, was the true genesis of the Chinese miracle. And in the middle 1990s out of a total savings rate of some 37% only a few percentage points came from abroad.

Some of Mr Crook’s response concerns my psychological difficulties in coming to grips with his truths. But in fact I am happy about China’s rise toward prosperity. However, it does illustrate unpleasant realities about the relationship between economic liberalism and economic progress in the real world.

Indeed, what Stanley Fischer’s charts really reveal is that there is almost a reverse relationship between adherence to neoliberal doctrine and recent developmental successes.

To see the loyalists of global misgovernment claim credit for a pair of bright spots, while trying to separate themselves from their failures, is indeed annoying and embarrassing. I am annoyed – and they should be embarrassed.

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